Wisconsin Schools

Professional football fans and others alike, have been gripped by the story of Buffalo Bills defensive back, Damar Hamlin, following his collapse on Monday Night Football. He reportedly suffered cardiac arrest and, because of the immediate and comprehensive medical response, was resuscitated on the field before being taken to a local hospital. As of the publication of this article, he has reportedly been released from the hospital and ultimately appears poised to make a full recovery. Certainly, being a 24-year-old professional athlete helped – but so did the knowledge of the medical professionals present and the ready access to equipment that enabled him to receive immediate lifesaving intervention.

This story made international news, and understandably so given the venue and subsequent exposure. Sadly, however, serious health events, including cardiac arrest, do occur in athletic activities, even at the high school and middle school level. Definitive data is hard to find, but The American Academy of Pediatrics in a report published in 2012 estimated that approximately 2,000 deaths in persons under age 25 occur every year due to sudden cardiac arrest. And, while Damar Hamlin experienced such an event in the presence of highly trained and fully equipped medical personnel, that is not likely often the case. According to the American Heart Association, 65% of people in the United States report having received CPR training, but only 18% of the adult population is up to date on training.

School Requirements for Teaching Lifesaving Skills

Wisconsin law requires that all public schools, charter schools, and private schools that operate any grades from grade 7 – 12 provide instruction in “lifesaving skills”. Specifically, Wisconsin law requires schools do all of the following:

(a)  Provide instruction in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and cardiocerebral resuscitation in any health education course offered to pupils in grades 7 to 12. The school board, operator of the charter school, or governing body of the private school shall use either of the following, and shall incorporate into the instruction the psychomotor skills necessary to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation and cardiocerebral resuscitation:

    1. An instructional program developed by the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association.
    2. Nationally recognized, evidence-based guidelines for cardiopulmonary resuscitation and cardiocerebral resuscitation.

(b)  Provide instruction about automated external defibrillators to pupils enrolled in grades 7 to 12 in the school district, charter school, or private school.

Wis. Stat. § 118.076.

To assist schools in fulfilling this requirement, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) provides resources and an FAQ:

  1. Do the students have to practice the skills of CPR and CCR?

Yes, thus equipment is necessary for practice of psychomotor skills. Mannequins or other reasonable available substitute (such as dolls or pillows) may be used.

  1. Does hands-only CPR meet the requirement?

Yes, hands-only CPR meets the requirement.

  1. Are multiple years of CPR and CCR instruction at the same school required?

No, multiple years of instruction at the same school is not required.

  1. Do the students need to practice utilizing an AED?

No, they only need to be provided instruction.

  1. Can CPR and CCR be taught in any other class than health education course?

Yes, CPR and CCR may be taught in any course in which health education is occurring.

  1. Can AED be taught in any other class than health education?

Yes, the law does not specifically state a specific course that this must be taught in; However, it would be most logical to pair it with instruction in CPR and CCR.

  1. Are all students enrolled in virtual school exempt from the requirements?

No, the virtual schools may administer the instruction either virtually or in-person

Unfortunately, the above linked document contains outdated links to training resources. Current information can be found here: American Heart Association and the American Red Cross.

Notification to Student Athletes

In addition to providing instruction in lifesaving skills, beginning with the current school year, schools are required to provide information to student athletes and parents concerning sudden cardiac arrest.

The information, mandated by Wis. Stat. § 118.2935, was developed by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction in consultation with the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) and two pediatric cardiologists. The information regarding sudden cardiac arrest is to be provided together with the required information concerning concussion and head injury information. The information developed by DPI is found in a joint DPI and WIAA bulletin.  


The lifesaving potential of CPR, CCR, and AEDs is clear and was on display for the world to see during the recent Monday Night Football game. As is often the case, Wisconsin’s schools play a key role in providing training in these critical skills.

For questions regarding this article, please contact the author,

or your Renning, Lewis & Lacy attorney.

Geoffrey A. Lacy

Geoffrey A. Lacy

glacy@law-rll.com | 920.283.0704

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